PUTRAJAYA: Discrimination against the transgender community in Malaysia has to stop, says Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, who is in charge religious affairs, said the Government will consider introducing anti-discrimination policies or laws to protect the vulnerable group, but admits that more understanding on the matter is needed.
“We (the government) will discuss with the relevant ministries, and I can mediate. But whatever it is, there should be no discrimination against transgender individuals.
“They need work, they need access to education and places of worship. I hear that they are also discriminated when it comes to health access, and this should not happen.
“Transgenders are a reality that we cannot avoid. We live with the reality and must ensure that they are given justice.
“The transgenders are not asking for extra rights, such as same-sex marriage. They just do not want to be hurt and discriminated against.
“It does not matter who, but you cannot hurt fellow Malaysians,” said Dr Mujahid at a press conference here Friday.
He added that stern action should be taken against those who deny access to basic rights such as health services to transgenders.
Dr Mujahid was speaking after a 40-minute meeting with transgender advocate Nisha Ayub.
Also present at the meeting was Dr Mujahid’s Deputy, Fuziah Salleh.
The meeting was arranged following a heated public debate on the removal of Nisha and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activist Pang Khee Teik’s portraits from a photo exhibition at the George Town Fesitval.
“In our meeting, we spoke beyond the photo exhibition issue, and more pertinently, on the real problems faced by the transgender community.
"Nisha shared a lot of the challenges faced by them, and these are things we need to address," said Dr Mujahid.
Nisha said she was overwhelmed that Dr Mujahid had agreed on the meeting.
“This is the first time a minister actually wants to sit down and listen to us. I am hoping that we can move forward to more positive outcomes,” she said, adding that other groups like the LGBTs should also engage with Dr Mujahid.
On the removal of the portraits, Dr Mujahid said the matter was “over” and the instruction for the removal remained.
“Even she (Nisha) did not know her photo was being used, or that she was wrongly labelled in the exhibition as an LGBT activist, of which she is not. On that part, the organiser should have done their homework.
“I am taking a stance to protect the safety of the transgender people, and true enough, there has been some negative backlash. Imagine if the portraits remained there for a month,” said Dr Mujahid.
Nisha said she had received plenty of online attacks, to the extent of death threats.
“I am not too bothered about my portrait being taken down, I am more concerned about the backlash against the transgender community. People have sent me hateful messages, even some threatened to kill me,” she said.
She said she was not aware that her portrait, which was taken a year ago in conjunction with the 60th Merdeka celebrations, was being put up at the exhibition until she was tagged in a Facebook post.